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Can a tree make a forest, Okogie asks

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RETIRED Catholic Archbishop of Lagos  Anthony Cardinal Okogie yesterday reacted to recent happenings in the polity  asking: “Can a tree make a fotest?”

Cardinal Okogie

According to a letter he released yesterday, the social crusader said: “An adage has it that a tree cannot make a forest.  Whoever wishes to appreciate the wisdom in that adage should take a hard look at distant and recent history of our beloved country Nigeria.

“We Nigerians love to believe that our problem is leadership. Consequently, we believe that once we have a good leader he and he alone will solve all our problems.  We are in the habit of looking for a messiah, a leader who would fit into the job description of Mr Fix All.  But a leader is as good as the people he leads.

“In our desire for a messiah, we outsource our responsibility for the common good.  Every Nigerian ought to work for the common good.  But we are looking for one person who will do it all.  Surely, we need a good leader, one with the intellectual, moral and administrative competence needed to pilot the ship of state.  Good leadership is surely a necessary condition for the common good.  But a necessary condition is not a sufficient condition.

“Every election season, politicians manipulate our desire for good leaders and present themselves or are presented by their campaign managers as messiahs.  Seeing that we love to deify and worship leaders, divine credentials are attributed to a mere mortal who, like every human being, bears within him a human nature wounded by sin and prone to sin.  Once elected into office, our political leaders become unsupervised, unchecked and unquestioned monarchs.  Anyone who asks questions about their conduct in office is labelled as unpatriotic by their spin doctors.

“During the campaign season, their propaganda organs already sold them to us as all-knowing problem solvers.   But, months after the euphoria, reality bites.  And the bite is even more painful when we discover that we have elected persons who are patently incompetent, self-centred, and inordinately ambitious.  We elect persons who are leading us on a fast track to disintegration.  These are issues Nigerians must keep in mind as we approach another election year.

“No president can single-handedly fix Nigeria.  No state governor can provide all the answers to the problem of his or her state.  We would be deluding ourselves to think otherwise.  We would be students who have repeatedly failed to understand that a tree cannot make a forest.  We have been hoping that a tree would make a forest, and that the branches of that sole tree would hold Nigeria.  Kingmakers present messiahs to us on campaign grounds.  The cock or the umbrella or the broom or any other party emblem is wielded.  Aso ebis are sown.  Slogans are shouted.  A candidate is well-packaged.  But whether what we see is what we get, is the question to be answered in subsequent months and years.  Deified in the process of packaging, a candidate easily becomes a tyrant.

“Nigeria, by her size, diversity and complexity cannot be fixed by one strong man.  Placed in the hands of one man, Nigeria’s problems assume increasing complexity, especially where the strong man is a man of many weaknesses surrounded by self-serving hero worshippers.  The strong man, governor, president or minister, cannot work alone, because he is not omnipotent.  Some people put him on their backs to get him into office.  He feels indebted to them.  He appoints them into office.  Loyalty is accorded primacy over competence.

“We want to fight corruption.  But are we all ready for the fight or are we content with leaving the fight in the hands of one man?  Are we also ready to fight within the ambit of the law?  One person cannot form an anti-corruption army.  We have to decide, each and all, to practice a philosophy of zero tolerance of corruption.  We all, individually and collectively, must work to fix Nigeria.

“As another campaign season approaches, we must be on the lookout for corrupt tendencies even in the campaign.  It is a well-known fact that our electoral process is riddled with corruption.  It is oiled with money taken from the treasury.  If we want to be sincere with ourselves and with one another, we must acknowledge that this is not the practice of just one political party.  It is a diabolical act that cuts across party lines.  Lies will be told for and against candidates.  Attempts will be made to buy votes, a tendency which, as we saw during the last elections in Ekiti State, cuts across party lines.  The process of emergence of candidates is already rigged at the primaries, within parties that abhor internal democracy.

“Politicians are grazing like herdsmen from one party to another because of their insatiable appetite for power and money.  In a dangerous game, and in gross violation of the principle of separation of powers, security agencies which ought to be loyal to citizens of Nigeria, show loyalty only to politicians in power, and are being used by the same politicians to fight their opponents.  Our politicians are dragging security agencies into their war, and that is extremely dangerous for this country.  In their inordinate ambition, those in office would use every means to remain in power, while those who are outside would do everything to get into power.  Our land is witnessing a divorce of politics and morality.  Our politicians would not mind dragging Nigeria into another civil war.  They are in urgent need of conversion.  They need to make a U-turn on the way that leads to bloodshed.

“The desecration of the sacred space of Nigeria’s democracy, the National Assembly, by hooded and armed men said to be operatives of a security agency, weeks after the mace was stolen, the prevention of legislators from gaining access to the National Assembly was immoral.  There is no other name for it.  Whoever inspired and authorized that act put our peaceful coexistence in jeopardy.

“But with Nigerians confronting and condemning these security operatives, can it be said that Nigerians have learnt to defy the human beings they deify?  Can it be said that we have learnt to disobey the gods we have created with our own hands? We are watching and waiting,” he concluded.

By Sam Eyoboka

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